Saturday, 18 June 2011

Something and Nothing

I have promised this post - with explanation - to Miss Cellany, so blame her, not me please (any old excuse). After a couple of years of generously sharing her garden, she now wants me to share the joke. Fair enough, I suppose.

It's all to do with cryptic language and the measures taken by some playwrights to get stuff past the censors which would otherwise be stamped on during rehearsals - even if you did own your own theatre. Some playwrights were better at this than others - which explains why Lorca was persecuted to death.

Of course, the uncontested and unsurpassed master of the English language was William Shakespeare, and Miss has just mentioned that a recent study of Tudor coroner's records shows that it is very likely that Shakespeare's play 'Ophelia' was based directly on the death of his sister in Stratford upon Avon, after she drowned whilst out picking flowers on the banks of the Avon itself.

Ok, down to the point. Tudor and Elizabethan slang for a woman's genitalia was 'nothing'. The equivalent for a man's was 'something'. How beautifully simple and descriptive. Positive and negative encapsulated into two single, inoffensive words.

'Much Ado About Nothing' takes on a whole new meaning when you get the reference - as I have only just found out.

Right - any other business... Oh yes. A special welcome to Radders who - I hope - has fulfilled her promise of looking up my blog, made in a Chinese restaurant in Bath last night, under the influence of mono sodium glutamate.

Radders and I have been mates on and off for years and she has always left me wanting for nothing in the relationship. She asked what my blog was about, and I said, "Nothing, really."

"It can't be about nothing - it has to be about something!" she said, and I replied by vaguely saying that it was about anything and everything. Now she knows.


  1. Hello Tom:
    Cryptanalysis encapsulated.

  2. Ah Tom, you really are something!

  3. Something for the weekend sir?

  4. Nothing about you offends me, Joe.

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  6. All I can say tom is that you have a play on words worthy of Shakespeare himself!

  7. Great. Now all day long I'll be looking at my farm boy husband knowing he has nothing on his mind. Absolutely nothing.Nada

  8. Describe nothing - as it is a word depicting something.

  9. I shared my garden for exactly one year - it obviously seemed at least twice as long to you, Tom. 'Oh, that woman jabbering on about plants!'

    I could get all feminist about the 'nothing' label, it's meaning including inferior or trifling. It was surely a term coined and used only by men.

  10. You really are a prick!
    (Take that as a compliment)

  11. Cher - why are you getting so literal about this wonderful literary coinage? 'positive' and 'negative' are NOT qualitative terms, they merely refer to the physical nature of the thing they are applied to.

    People refer to 'female' and 'male' fittings in electrics - plugs and sockets - there are no qualitative implications involved in these descriptions.

    To put it bluntly, women have a hole between their legs, but it is only described (in Tudor times) as 'nothing', because it is a hole. Did you REALLY need me to explain this? Do you REALLY think that this slang could only have been invented by a man?

    A man could be quite rightly seen as ridiculous, because his reproductive organs are OUTSIDE his body, and not sensibly tucked away inside, out of harm's way. This is why men are so VULNERABLE!

    Thanks, Sarah T - I do.

  12. I ve always like the word
    b e a v e r

  13. So are we to expect dams to be created by little furry creatures in your neighborhood in the near future, John?

    Also, did you know that the word 'twat' originally meant 'a hole in a hedge through which it is possible to squeeze through'? True. I have a whole dictionary of 18th and 19th century slang. Great reading.